Will AUKUS reduce China’s nuclear deterrent?

By Defence View

Depends on many factors

The AUKUS Tripartite Agreement will allow Australia to build nuclear submarines based on technology transferred by the US. This is a scenario that China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “will damage peace and stability in the region, exacerbate the arms race, and affect efforts to fight back.” nuclear proliferation by the international community”.

However, whether AUKUS opens the “door” to nuclear weapons depends on how atomic technology is transferred from the US to Australia; Milton Leitenberg, the senior research fellow at the Center for Security and International Studies, University of Maryland, said.

The fuel used to power submarine reactors is also used to develop nuclear weapons – a loophole in international non-proliferation treaties that some nations have signed up for. have been suspected of taking advantage in the past – although Mr Leitenberg said he did not think the Australian government had similar intentions.

“Everything will depend on, whether there is a provision in the agreement that helps the US get back the reactor fuel after they have been used and no longer have the effect of powering the submarines,” Leitenberg said.

The fuel that will be used to power Australia’s nuclear submarine reactors will be highly enriched uranium (HEU). Uranium enriched to more than 20% is considered HEU, and US and UK submarine reactors use uranium enriched to 93-97% – which is above the 90% threshold that is believed to be ” weapon level” standard.

Special exemption for Australia

At a press conference held at the White House last week, US officials said that “a unique set of safety regulations” would help govern how HEUs are used by Australia.

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